Q&A: no, really, the swine flu

Sorry for getting this up late. I had it mostly written but then got distracted writing a song for next year's American Idol. If anyone can come up with a rhyme for "made it through the storm," I'll give you cowriter credit and 5% of the royalties.

We talked about the swine flu (or H1N1 or whatever the actual name is) a few weeks ago, and I kind of thought the fear was going to die down. But over the past few days I've gotten a couple of emails that basically said, "Aren't you terrified, living in NYC?" or "I was chill before, but there's one case in my town now and I'm finding that I'm lying awake at night worrying about it."

The short answer is, yes I'm terrified living in NYC. But not of the swine flu. There's so much else for me to be scared of, from being run over by a taxi to not being able to pay my rent to having a child get sick from possible mold in the walls of my crumbling apartment to having the tsunami we're due for hit to another terrorist attack to having the entire infrastructure collapse because of the recession and having riots in the streets to never finding the love of my life and living in noble loneliness for the rest of my days. Honestly, swine flu seems pretty tame in comparison.

(Hey, after I wrote that paragraph, they announced on the news that the first public elementary school in Manhattan is being closed today. Maybe this is going to be more extensive than I thought?)

OTOH, I don't blame anyone who's scared of it. Especially if you live in a place in which you have what I'd consider the "normal" set of worries. (Meaning not terrorism and taxis and other anomalous events.) It could stay at the level it's at, or something really weird could happen and it could get far more dangerous.

It's the unpredictability of it that makes it scary. If you knew what the path was going to be, or how serious it was going to be, you could stop worrying so much. If we knew H1N1 was going to be less lethal than the regular flu (100 deaths a day!) we could all just ride it out. But we don't know.

As a parent, it's your job to worry. We're hard-wired for it. Not worrying meant a dingo would have stolen your baby. And not worrying now means any number of things could happen to your child. The trick is to try to keep it in perspective so you don't become consumed with it. (If you find that you're having repetitive thoughts that are serious and make you feel out of control, tell your doctor immediately. If you find you're having repetitive thoughts that are annoying you but don't feel like a crisis, up your magnesium supplementation, because lack of magnesium causes anxiety and that repetitive thought/insomnia loop.)

So take the precautions you should take (wash your hands; eat, sleep, and exercise well; call your doctor if you develop flu symptoms). And then just do the best you can do to stay relaxed but alert.


(I was at the burrito store the other day waiting for my order, and readin one of the Spanish-language newspapers (and I didn't bother to note which one, which is unfortunate because I can't find the article again online to cite) that in Mexico City, 98% of the relatives of those who died from H1N1--the people who had been living closely with them during the incubation period--did NOT develop any symptoms of flu. Which I thought was really strange. And makes me wonder even more what's going to happen with this disease.)